Posts Tagged ‘Paul Ryan’

Make Republicans Great Again

October 18, 2016 Leave a comment

A lot has been written lately about the impending death of the Republican Party. I have remained skeptical of such eulogies. In fact, I think that the Republican Party could have a strong future in our national politics sooner than later, but it has to start right now.

In far too many words, I will lay out how the Republican Party can reclaim their status as a national governing power, improve the American electoral process, govern efficiently without compromising their (establishment) principles, exploit an impending divide in the Democratic Party to recruit pragmatic centrists, and win over the hearts of Millennials. The resulting country would be stronger, because each party would have empirical evidence that theirs is a viable path forward; each party would value responsible, responsive leadership; and the two parties combined would be more representative of the American electorate, whose center has been criminally underrepresented and whose politics and policies have been drifting left.

Personally, I should note that despite considering myself a moderate, many of the positions I advocate for the Republican Party embracing are not ones I would clamor for myself. I am not daydreaming about the perfect party for me, personally. But such a change would lead to the possibility that I would again be an undecided voter in many elections–a status I haven’t been able to claim for some time.

Step One: Become the Party of Electoral Legitimacy

I got the idea to write this post today when I saw an article about the Allegheny County (PA) District Attorney issuing a statement ensuring that they had no evidence of any impending wrongdoing undermining the electoral results. It struck me, that in an American democratic system, such a reminder needed to be issued. But it is needed; desperately. Because Trump has apparently given up on winning the election and has instead dedicated his time to questioning the legitimacy of the upcoming electoral outcomes. It should surprise nobody that there is a great deal of literature that indicates that the key to successful democracies is the peaceful and smooth transition of power after the votes are cast. That’s just common sense.

And so, yet again, Trump’s behavior is giving Republican officials an opportunity to disavow him. The last time a wave of un-support occurred, many on the left (including President Obama) said that Republicans get no points for distancing themselves now, this late in the process. Many were cynical about the fact that alienating Muslims, Mexicans, and all sorts of others were tolerated, but the electorally powerful block of women was enough to engender real dissent from Republican officials.

So again, if officials were to stand up to Trump, many would question: why now? Why only when it is clear that he will lose? But there is a good answer. Trump has disparaged people; he has disparaged communities; but now, he is disparaging democracy. He is calling into question the quintessential institution of a successfully-governed society. And Republican officials at all levels need to stand up and shut this rhetoric down. They need to show the country that there are two responsible parties; that our democracy can survive Trump; and that our country and some of its most vital institutions are not endangered by their party.

Republican state parties, national leaders, and elected officials should come forward and insist that they will uphold the electoral integrity of the process. They should speak out against voter intimidation. They should promise their support and acceptance of the outcomes of the elections. This message should come as soon and as loudly and as clearly as possible. Our elections are in good hands; their results are paramount and final. The Party will accept the results.

Step Two: Disavow, Disengage, and Re-Brand

When people think about re-branding, they usually think about re-branding themselves, or from within. I, however, am talking about re-branding ardent Trump supporters. I recently read a column that pointed out that in the general election, there are ~40% of people who will vote Republican every time. That explains Trump’s level of support. But in the primary election, the Trump vote, and even the more cumulative “outsider” vote, made up a smaller share of the Republican Party and American electorate. These people who so readily put party above country, or worse yet don’t understand the risks that Trump actually poses to the nation, deserve to be outcast by those in the party who wish to govern and to make progress in American policy rather than simply tear down the institutions that have been built over time. Repudiating Trump will cause an immense backlash from many within the party base, who by and large still want their leaders to support the nominee, but it’s time to officially cast out those demons.

This doesn’t require a great deal of shifting, honestly. Once Trump has been disavowed and a dedication to responsible transition of power has been announced, parrot Paul Ryan’s oft-repeated desire to govern responsibly and fulfill a conservative vision through implementation of the Better Way agenda. Then, simply add that those who stand in the way and do not support the implementation of the agenda are the ones abandoning their country and their party. Those who resist the loudest and most boisterously, then, should be branded as outside of the Republican Party. They key is to brand them in a way that they would also welcome and adopt–I’d pick something along the lines of Radical Nationalists; they might think it a compliment or at least a fitting and acceptable moniker. Tell them that they no longer stand with the party, and let them embrace that role. And in a simple but steady stream of rhetoric, the party has thus ousted those who seek to destroy it.

Step Three: Be the Party of Electoral Reform

Of course, if it were that easy, wouldn’t the Republican Party have asserted its leadership over its unraveling base long ago? Yes, but they needed the fringes on the right to win elections. They needed to move even further right to survive primary challenges. But with the right set of initiatives, the need and fear of primary challenges could be eliminated. If there is one thing that 2016 has made clear, it is that the electoral system is in need of reform. The primary system has delivered two historically unpopular candidates and removed the credibility of the recently-coined edict: “the party decides.”

This is why becoming the party of electoral reform would be a hugely popular move. And through initiatives completely within party control (at the state level), the need to pander to right-wing voters could be greatly reduced or eliminated. How? By opening primaries. Republicans famously have full control over 23 state governments (governors and legislature), plus 8 more governorships (either with mixed or Democratic legislatures), and a legislature under an independent governor. This control gives the party a HUGE amount of leeway to implement electoral reform. This move would be popular among independents and political disaffecteds, but would also allow the large swath of Republican-leaning independents to have a say in the primary process.

These efforts should be targeted. Look to traditionally blue states with Republican Governors. Look for states where Trump did very poorly in the primaries. Look for states in which Senator and Congresspeople have felt safe and empowered enough to openly oppose Trump. A mass effort of strategically opening primaries across the nation could mitigate the prospect of far-right primary threats and create goodwill among political moderates in one fell swoop. This is an essential part of any plan to put Republicans back into play nationally without sacrificing the ability to govern effectively.

Step Four: Govern

This one is going to be difficult to swallow. The President is going to be Public Enemy #1, Hillary Clinton. One path would be to let the anti-Clinton sentiment unify the party into 4 more years of obstructionism–something Republican Senator John McCain has indicated is on the docket. This would be the easy path.

However, Speaker Paul Ryan has repeatedly said that he would look for areas of common ground and work to implement them. He usually follows that with some quip about there being very little common ground to work with. And so I took it upon myself to open up Hillary Clinton’s website, and open up Speaker Ryan’s Better Way website, and I looked for common ground. There isn’t a TON to work with, but there is enough.

Speaker Ryan and Clinton can improve workforce training initiatives. Both would like to increase early childhood development. They actually have a decent amount of room to work with on health care, if they can get past the dicey political rhetoric of Obamacare and repeal; simply putting forth several of the measures they view as a “replacement,” rather than continued focus on “repeal,” could uncover many overlaps. Crucially, after a thorough vetting, the Republicans in the Senate (likely to be in the minority) should confirm Clinton’s Supreme Court nominees. That will hurt, but it is the responsible thing to do.

This is not a call from a political naïf for a kumbaya government. There are irreconcilable differences, such as the approach to addressing poverty, the approach to reforming entitlements, and upper income taxation. Republicans should not abandon their principles and let Clinton do as she pleases, but simply move government along, find areas of agreement, and try not to mention the word shutdown for a few years. When it comes time for subsequent elections, Republicans should be able to say that they fought Clinton on a number of issues, but that they also managed to accomplish some of their legislative priorities despite a hostile president.

There is one area of agreement that I have left out thus far, and this will be a crucial to a Republican plan forward. Clinton has acknowledged that the corporate tax code is among the highest in the world. She has called for reform and closing of loopholes. She has said proposed several measures through the corporate tax code to punish companies that leave the US for tax avoidance and reward those that bring money and jobs back. She has been rumored to be in favor of a repatriation holiday and possibly a lower corporate tax rate. She favors full expensing of investments, and a lower, simpler tax code for small businesses. Paul Ryan’s Better Way agenda calls for many of the same things. He prefers full expensing for all businesses, and likely a lower corporate tax rate than Clinton would prefer. But there is a LOT of common ground here. I can see very little chance that a Republican House, a split Senate, and a Clinton presidency would not result in a large-scale corporate tax reform. And doing so will likely benefit the country, while also being a huge victory for the Republican Party.

Step Five: Drive the Wedge

One of the most important developments for this plan is happening outside of the Republican Party and outside of their control. And that is the leftward shift of the Democratic Party. Bernie Sanders galvanized a new generation on the left. Elizabeth Warren is lionized. And while yes, the more center-left, pragmatic Clinton won the primary fairly easily, the Democratic Party platform, as well as the tone and content of the messaging from the left have undergone a sort of metamorphosis in the past several years. No time in recent history has the word “socialist” been as politically acceptable. No time in recent history has social justice so dominated the conversation. Clinton is an unpopular candidate who will win the election because Trump is an unacceptable candidate, but there are fissures on the left, and those fissures could create the opportunity to pilfer the centrists from a party they see moving left of them. And those fissures will crack wide open when Clinton partners with Republicans to pass corporate tax reform.

I’m not saying that the Democrats would run a primary opponent against her. I’m not saying that they would abandon support altogether. But I am saying that corporate tax reform would ramp up the rhetoric from the left in a hurry. It would provide a boogeyman to point to: “look at the Democrats lurching left! Opposed to working together and making compromises that better the country!” The American public forgets in a hurry. Two years of responsible Republican governance could quickly flip the script and make the Democrats the ones that sound unwilling to make a deal, such will be their discontent with yet another corporatist at the helm of their party. This is a recruiting opportunity. Show centrists that there is a responsible alternative now, dedicated to governing; willing to push out the extremists from their party. Show them how distanced you are from the Party of Trump.

Step Six: End the Culture Wars

Up until this point, I have laid out a path to oust the extreme and ungovernable right wing from the Republican Party and form a coalition of establishment Republicans, right-leaning independents, and centrists dismayed by the Democratic move to the left. Certainly, if all goes well, that might be enough to re-form the Republican Party into a viable party on the national level in a way that many couldn’t currently fathom. However, there’s an important voting bloc remaining that may be a secret weapon: Millennials.

Millennials are the largest generational demographic in the nation, having surpassed baby boomers in size. Naturally, young people don’t vote as often as older generations, but they also present an opportunity for a political realignment that this nation so desperately needs. Millennials are less likely to identify with either party. They are among the most likely to back a third party candidate this year, showing a vast discontent with their options and a big opportunity to be persuaded and recruited. They are also incredibly likely to favor gay marriage. And while some polls have shown them to be pretty hostile toward abortion, the same polls indicate that they do not identify as “pro-life,” primarily because the image has been so tarnished by Republican-driven rhetoric in the culture wars of the past.

I’m not saying become a pro-choice party. I’m not saying become a pro-gay rights party (ok, both of those would be pretty great to me personally, but I recognize that there is enough of an electorate out there who disagrees with me that reversing yourselves might cause more trouble than its worth). But at the very least, stop emphasizing them; stop talking about them. The Republican Party has already in theory rejected “culture wars” in matters of social justice, though the white nationalists supporting Trump have made that more difficult to believe. But in moving forward, it might be a great appeal to unaffiliated and undecided voters to just be the party that prioritizes economics and job creation and lays out a conservative vision to address poverty and just simply stops pushing and pushing back on the social issues. This is the one thing that prevents moderate democrats from ever crossing the aisle. And after years of harsh rhetoric, backing off from these topics could provide the breath of fresh air needed to legitimize the party for the next generation.


So that’s my blueprint to move forward. The result of these actions should over time lead to a center-right party battling more of a leftist party and leaving the right-wing nationalists relegated to the current role of libertarians–angrily throwing forth a longshot nominee every four years; exactly where the fringe of this country deserves to be.

But remember, it all starts right now. It all starts with ditching Donald Trump and making a strong, ardent case for electoral legitimacy and peaceful transfers of power.


On the Republican National Convention

August 31, 2012 Leave a comment

Chances are, I watched more of the Republican National Convention than you did. In fact, chances are I watched more of the convention than any sane person should. I wanted to watch it the way most Republicans would watch it, so I tuned to Fox News. But when I realized that the networks talked over and had commercials during many speeches, I muted Fox News while watching the convention on CSPAN. That way, not only would I see everything at the convention, but I could also see how it was being covered by Fox News. Suffice it to say, I’m sort of overloaded, but I want to reflect on what was or wasn’t accomplished this past week, as well as some quick-hitting thoughts at the end.


Going into the convention, there were some pretty clear-cut expectations as to what the goals of the convention should be. The most talked-about goal was to help Mitt Romney connect to the American people by getting to know him better. I wrote in advance that I thought this was a mistake. I think when people said we need to know him better, what they really meant was that we need to know a different Mitt Romney, but I think we already knew Romney. As he himself stated, “I am what I am and that’s all that I am.” Getting a closer look at Romney might not lead to greater connectivity, but simply reaffirm that his experience is not typical. This connecting with Mitt effort revved up on the final night of the convention, with people from Romney’s past–people who are not professional speakers–brought onto stage to help paint a fuller picture of Mitt Romney, culminating with the man himself.

I must admit, this did not go as poorly as I expected. The parade of people from the past, however, was terribly flat and boring. It is good to have eye witness accounts to the fact that Romney seems to be a good person and has been successful. But to watch that story get told through a series of short speeches was not a made-for-tv moment. Nor did it engage or connect me, despite some of the wonderful things being said.

Romney’s speech, however, exceeded my expectations, and probably because he didn’t seem to focus on connecting with people, but on saying what he wanted to say. After an expectedly blase beginning, he had a couple of very strong lines. I think the speech really turned when he contrasted Obama’s lofty goals and promises with Mitt’s own very simple promise to help you and your family. Romney let the convention do what it could to get to know him better. He, however, focused on the job at hand, and I think that was an excellent decision for him.

I think the most unreported aspect of this convention was the redefinition of the Romney campaign to the “optimism” campaign. It went on subtly all week, but really was driven home when he spoke. When your opponent ran a race on “hope” four years ago, cornering the market on optimism is a very tall task, but I think it’s one that was very well-executed. By the end of the week–and especially Romney’s speech–a viewer may have the subconscious impression that the current administration thinks that this is the best we can do, while Romney, Paul Ryan and the Republicans have faith that America and the American people can do better. It was a well-crafted change in tone and message, and it’s something for which I believe the Romney campaign and the convention organizers deserve credit.


Another primary goal was to turn women around to Team Romney by expressing that the real women’s issues are simply economic issues, not issues having to do with reproduction and its associated functions. I think that this had mixed results. The pandering to women was a little too over-the-top; a little too blunt. You know when someone gives you a sales pitch, and they’re so enthusiastic that a little alarm goes off in your head saying “wait, I’m being sold, here,” and you begin to trust what they’re saying a little bit less? That happened all week on the issue of women.

It started off with Ann Romney. Her speech was pretty good. It accomplished the goal of getting people to believe a little bit more in Mitt Romney (“he. will. not. fail.”), but then again if your wife doesn’t love you, who will? The earlier segment of the speech, though, seemed awkward. In discussing that women bear a bit of a greater burden when times are tough, Ann Romney went on to name every familial role a woman can occupy, took an awkward pause, and then yelled “I love you, women!” Here’s the transcript of that segment: “We’re the mothers. We’re the wives. We’re the grandmothers. We’re the big sisters. We’re the little sisters, and we are the daughters. You know it’s true, don’t you?  I love you, women!”

Yes, Ann Romney, it is true that if you are a woman, you are at least one of those things. I’m not sure, however, that any of the women who do care about reproduction would be convinced by anything she said here. And isn’t closing a gender gap all about changing minds?

The outreach to women continued all week, and again got hit a little too bluntly in a speech by a Romney, with Mitt Romney devoting a segment of his speech devoted to the issue, discussing the women who worked in his cabinet, the women who start small businesses, the women he mentored, etc. Overall, I doubt that this convention did much to close the gender gap.


Quick Hits:

-I liked Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett’s remarks on the opening day. He seemed like a reasonable person who went out of his way to note that the policies he put in place did not come at the cost of environmental or socially beneficial factors.

-I found it really interesting during the parade of House and Senate candidates that were given air time to see what people chose to focus on with their very limited speaking time. One guy gave a speech almost entirely about coal. It’s good that he did, though, because too many of the others sounded like mimeographs of each other.

-The decision to move the roll call into Tuesday pre-prime time in order to avoid having too much of a national audience watch Minnesota and Nevada indignantly nominate Ron Paul, while also only calling out vote totals for Romney and no other candidates was probably smart. But it does add to my distaste of parties and increase their “creepy factor,” trying to silence division and dissidence within their walls. Ron Paul supporters, take note: Republicans want your votes but not your voices.

-If you are a black Republican, a Hispanic Republican, or even speak a little Spanish and are Republican, the Republicans wanted to hear from you this week. Except Fox News, who decided not to air Ted Cruz’s speech in favor of commercials and an interview with Scott Walker.

-On that note, Artur Davis is an excellent speaker. No wonder he’s been chosen to speak at conventions two straight election cycles, albeit for opposing sides. Davis had a line in which he said, “let’s put the poetry aside,” which was ironic only because his speech had such a great rhythm and rhetoric to it, as well. It was more rhetoric than substance, but honestly, conventions aren’t a really good place for substance.

-I liked Governor Chris Christie’s speech a lot. The “us” and “them” part wasn’t my favorite, but he depersonalized it, never mentioning President Obama by name (only once by “Mr. President”), and he lectured both sides of the aisle on actually getting things done. It reminded me a little of my own post on representative democracy.

-I know I’m not a Republican because I hated Paul Ryan’s speech, wasn’t a fan of Condoleezza Rice’s speech, but loved Christie’s. These opinions seem to run counter to the Republican convention reactions.

-Speaking of Rice, America’s reputation abroad neared an all-time low during the administration for which she was Secretary of State. I’m not saying that it was her fault, but it made her lecturing about being strong and posturing seem less impactful to me.

-Speaking of Republican reactions (two bullets up), I have a lot of politically active Republican friends on facebook, but didn’t see much from any of them this week. All polling says Republican enthusiasm is up, but I just found that contradictory anecdotal evidence to be strange.

-Jeb Bush said some things I didn’t like and agree with, but I also think that it is an important first step to hear Republicans admit that the current system (particularly in education) is not providing equal opportunity. This may be cause for further exploration and reflection after convention season is done.

-Marco Rubio was awfully religious in his introduction of Mitt Romney. That seemed like a strange choice. That said, Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan, Chris Christie and possibly Condoleezza Rice are gearing up for an epic primary in 2016 or 2020.